On June 7, at 10 am, a grand opening of the 17-mile-long recreational Valley Trail will be held at the Haystack gatehouse, to commemorate a project nearly two decades in the making, and the final push that made it a reality.
Starting at the Reardon’s Crossing walking bridge on West Main Street in Wilmington, the heavily wooded trail runs through a network of VAST snowmobile trails and walking trails, to an exit in West Dover near Carinthia. The trail features a number of trailheads along the route, which allow users to experience specific sections of the trail, should they choose not to conquer all 17 miles at once.
“I’m very excited about what this has become,” said Ken Black, a member of the bitown committee, and Dover economic development specialist. “The more activities that we have in the valley that include nature, the better the experience it is for our residents and visitors.”
The bitown economic development committee is a group made up of Dover and Wilmington municipal leaders, business people, and residents, working to benefit the towns in a cohesive manner. Over the past two years, the group focused their efforts on the Valley Trail and pushed for its completion. “We look at what things we can do to benefit both towns,” said Black. “This was such an obvious one because it’s another layer of what we have to offer, and that’s certainly good for both towns. The trail brings you to center points of both towns and showcases both of them and it’s a connection that was long talked about.”
John Greene, chair of the Wilmington trails committee, has been talking about the project since 1997, when the original plans for the trail began to surface. Greene has worked on the project ever since and has seen all of its ups and downs both topographically and in its development. Original ideas included creating the trail closer to Route 100, but getting permission from landowners over larger tracts of land posed an issue. “The route has evolved to the route we have now,” said Greene. “The original route had various problems, but this route, everyone got on board. Getting and maintaining permission is tough, but we really appreciate all the landowners. It’s great they allow such a thing.”
Wilmington had to gather permission from 25 separate landowners in town, while Dover needed the permission of Kingswood, and Mount Snow. Each town also appropriated $5,000 out of their 1% option tax fund to provide financial support for kiosks, maps, and advertising. Wilmington economic development strategist Gretchen Havreluk envisions the trail as another catalyst for both recreation and business. “I can see people get off the trails, purchase things in our stores, have lunch in Dover, and get on the MOOver to get back to their car,” said Havreluk. “It’s a cohesive driver for economic growth in our valley.”
The trail will be used during the warm months for hiking as well as mountain biking, and in the winter can be used for snowmobiling. While some of the trail may be slightly more rigorous, Wilmington trails committee and bi town committee member Jake White says the trail features something for everyone.
“You can access the trail from variety of locations so you don’t have to hike or bike the whole trail, and that means a lot of potential,” said White. “A lot of it is wilderness and you are deep in woods, but the whole idea behind hiking is being out there enjoying the elements. Like anything, hiking is an activity people really enjoy. You can sit on your couch and watch TV, or you come enjoy beautiful Vermont.”
According to Greene, the trails are never finished, and plans to eventually connect the Valley Trail to the Haystack-Mount Snow ridge trail are already in the works.